Lyme Disease

Courtesy of Lyme Disease UK.




What is Lyme disease?

  • Lyme disease is caused by a corkscrew-shaped bacterium called Borrelia
  • Lyme disease can be transmitted via a tick bite
  • Ticks can carry other infections such as Anaplasma and Babesia
  • Ticks are arachnids and can be as small as a poppy seed

Risk of Lyme disease

  • Infected ticks can be found all over the UK
  • Infected ticks are found in woodland, heathland and parkland, but can also be found in urban parks and gardens.
  • You can be infected in any month, but it is most likely in spring/summer
  • The Big Tick project found ticks on 1 in 3 dogs

Prevention is crucial

  • Wear insect repellent during outdoor activities and consider treating outdoor clothing with permethrin
  • Avoid walking through long grass and stick to pathways
  • Wear light-coloured clothing and brush off any visible ticks
  • Wear long sleeves and long trousers
  • If you have to walk in long grass, tuck trousers into socks
  • Shower and check for ticks when you get home
  • Also use tick prevention on your pets and thoroughly check them for ticks after they have been outdoors

Removing a tick

  • Never pull off a tick with your fingers, normal tweezers or any other tool not designed for the job
  • Never smother the tick in oil or vaseline
  • Carefully remove it using a tick remover or a pair of very fine-tipped tweezers, ensuring all parts of the tick are removed
  • If you save the tick, it can be tested for infections
  • There is no minimum time a tick needs to be attached to pass an infection; however, do remove it as soon as possible

Diagnosing Lyme disease

  • Lyme disease can be hard to diagnose as tick bites can be easily missed.
  • The most obvious sign of Lyme disease is an Erythema Migrans rash, often referred to as a bullseye rash. An EM rash takes three days or more to appear after a bite, generally isn’t itchy or painful and then gradually spreads outwards. EM rashes can be atypical and do not always appear as the more easily identified ringed-type rash.
  • Be aware that not everybody develops an EM rash, so other symptoms to look out for are ‘summer flu’, headaches, neckache, fatigue, joint pain, muscle pain and generally feeling very unwell. In children, facial palsy (drooping of the face on one side) and behavioural changes can also indicate Lyme disease

Treating Lyme disease

Early treatment is key. An EM rash is diagnostic for Lyme disease and treatment should be started without the need for a blood test. The blood test used for Lyme disease is unreliable in the first 4-6 weeks after a bite and can produce a false negative result. This is because it is an antibody test and the body can take that long to make the antibodies to the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. The blood test should be repeated if it was carried out during this early window and returned a negative result.

Your GP will be able to advise on the best antibiotic for you. However, Doxycycline is commonly prescribed for adults and Amoxicillin for children. It is essential to be aware that treatment for children for Lyme disease is based on their age and weight as the dosage is much higher than usually prescribed for other infections. The NHS does not normally recommend treating prophylactically unless pregnant or immunocompromised.




Our Lyme Disease Story

A personal account of Lyme Disease by Karen Hedayati.